The Route we Walked

The Route we Walked

So are we ready?

We don't want to sound like the 'know it all' adventure parent giving out obvious advice to travel 'newbies' as we still feel like newbies ourselves. Each person, couple and family is unique and will make decisions and preparation that suits them. However a lot of pilgrims were curious about this part of the experience and these are some of the steps we took prior to walking the Camino.

We believe that adventures don't have to stop once children come along however for them to be enjoyable they just require a little more forethought.

Preparation for travel with a young child is essential. It can be divided into mental preparation and physical preparation. BOTH forms need to be considered hand in hand with a healthy dose of common sense.

Mental Preparation
Do the research – and then do more research. We read books, spoke to people who had walked the Camino, trawled Camino internet forums for advice and tips and gave serious thought to what we were undertaking.

Plan a back up plan. Know how you will reach help in an emergency.

Make sure your first aid knowledge is up to date

Accept that there is no RIGHT Camino path – and be prepared to be flexible. Plans change, illness occurs and everyone's experience is unique. This acceptance of the need to possibly be flexible will prevent disappointment and allow you to enjoy YOUR Camino.

Know your own strengths and weaknesses. When travelling as a family you need to know yourself as individuals and parents well, as your responsibility extends beyond yourself always. You need to ensure at the end of the day you have not emotionally and physically exhausted yourself as the needs of your children continue to be there despite how many kilometres you have trekked. Ensure you have emotional reserves.

Plan how you will give your child a sense of security and routine whilst being on the move each day eg we took the Kinderkot so she had the same sleeping space each night ensuring that she slept through the night each night.

Physical Preparation
There is a wealth of information available regarding this. However the steps we took for walking as a family were;

Research the right equipment extensively. We looked for clothing with the best suitability for the trek and this was difficult having a small child as many trekking clothes only were made in larger sizes. We obtained travel specific gear such as the Kinderkot for Aurelia to sleep in as well as taking the Little Beetle Travel Highchair.

Purchase the best equipment you can afford. Do NOT scrimp on boots or socks as you will be relying on your feet to get you across Spain.

Choose the best way to transport your child – taking your needs and theirs into consideration. For us personally this was having Aurelia in the Kathmandu carrier and condensing our gear into one pack. Other families we met had chosen to take their children in offroad buggies, or small trailers which attached to bicycles.

Train for the walking. You need to break your boots in WELL in advance of the journey.

Prepare your child for travelling long distances. We averaged out the approximate distances we would be walking each day expecting an average of 14-16 kms on an easy day, approx 20 kms on a longer day. We then mapped out routes around our house of 10-15kms and we would put Aurelia in the carrier and walk 10kms after dinner most days of the week. This allowed us to see how comfortable Aurelia found the carrier.

Train in different weather conditions. We walked in the rain with Aurelia and in the heat. This showed us how effective the equipment we were planning to use was and what measures we would need to take when trekking. It also allowed us to observe how well she tolerated different situations. You do not want to discover your child is petrified to be in the carrier when it is raining when you are 17kms to the next town and it starts raining on the Camino. Thankfully for us, Raya handled all weather conditions with far less complaining then we did and was not upset at all.

Pack a child specific First Aid Kit and ensure all immunisations are up to date prior to departure. Check the immunisation schedule of Spain and see how it compares to your own country and whether your child needs anything extra prior to leaving home.

Ensure you have a fungal cream in your first aid kit as we found this extremely difficult to obtain in Spain.

Pack lightly. This sound obvious but I CANNOT emphasise it enough. Travelling with a child requires extra equipment so you as the parents will have to cut down on what you can take. Nappies, baby wipes and baby food was easily found all along the Camino. Remember to factor in toys – we took finger puppets, small books and balloons for her to play with as they were all light.

At a maximum your packs should be no more than 10% of your body weight. Don't even ask how heavy ours were – they were heavier than anyone elses we met on the Camino plus Aurelia just continued to get heavier as we went lol. Accept that yes you will be wearing the same clothes every second day – there is nothing glamorous about trekking!! Also allow for the weight of water you will need to carry each day into the total weight of your pack.

We used the Camino Travel Centre in Santiago run by Ivar - a former pilgrim – for luggage storage. He runs a helpful friendly service where he will store a box of. luggage for 60 days for 15 Euro. Check out his website here. We couldn't have made it to Santiago without his service.

Practice by bushwalking – walking on the road is not ideal preparation for the uneven paths on the Camino Frances.

Allow more time than necessary for the walk and factor in rest days. We planned for 5 weeks of walking (turned out we only need a month) but having extra time allowed for shorter days and more play time for Aurelia each day out of the carrier.

We used a series of maps which we purchased with a guide book. While helpful, if
looking to cut down on weight, the maps are not necessary as the path is so clearly marked. While not necessary because information is available all along the path what would we did find helpful were the lists that other pilgrims had of all the albergues along the path – and this can be found at the Confermity of St James website. In addition to this terrain or altitude maps were available which allow you to plan for the harder days of walking. The total of the information can be condensed into 2 A4 pages.

People of all ages successfully complete the Camino. The terrain itself is generally easily managed as well as people pace themselves and walk at their own speed.

While preparation is essential the most IMPORTANT point on this list is flexibility as the Camino has the ability to challenge you in ways you don't expect and a willing attitude to take on these challenges is your most important resource.

“Walking your own path” is an expression which describes the trekking of the Camino perfectly.

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